This estate has been run since 1991 by Caterina Dei, who gave up an acting career to become a wine producer. She can count on four of the finer sub-zones within Montepulciano from which to draw grapes : Bossona, Martiena, La Ciarlitana and La Piaggia. To my taste, the current line-up of wines is the best ever made by Caterina and winemaker Niccolo d'Afflitto. Not one to take no for an answer, she also makes a pleasant Vin Santo "all on my own, because Niccolo absolutely refuses to make it." And although it's available only in small quantities and is still a work in progress, my guess is that d'Afflitto will give in sooner or later.

2005 Dei Rosso di Montepulciano

($19; an 80/20 blend of prugnolo gentile and canaiolo nero) Pretty light-medium ruby. Extremely fruity, explosively fresh aromas of pomegranate and sour cherry. Vibrant and buoyant on the palate, with crunchy red fruit flavors supported by a distinct stoniness. Its relatively low 12.5 % alcohol, fine tannins and high acidity, and vibrant texture make this ideal on a hot summer day. You might even give it a light chill.


2004 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

($31; made up of 80% prugnolo gentile, 15% canaiolo nero and 5% mammolo) Full ruby. Highly perfumed sangiovese aromas of morello cherry and dried tea leaf aromas are complemented by riper black cherry, spicy plum and mocha notes. Sweet, fat, dense and supple, but with lively acids enabling it to come across as juicy and brisk at the same time. Finishes smooth and long.


2003 Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Bossona

($49; 100% prugnolo gentile) Deep ruby. Multifaceted nose exudes pure sour cherry and raspberry aromas, complicated by coffee and hazelnut nuances. Offers laser-like precision on the palate, with flavors similar to the aromas and a very long finish that features sweet, suave tannins. This impeccably balanced wine is made from vines originally planted by Caterina's grandfather in the 1960s, and the old-vines quality shines through loud and clear.


2004 Dei Sancta Catharina Toscana Rosso

($50; 30% each sangiovese, syrah and cabernet sauvignon, plus 10% petit verdot) Dark red. Violets and hints of graphite and smoky meat on the open nose. Rich and round on the palate; quite modern in style. The tangy berry flavors are not especially complex yet, but this attractive wine finishes very smooth, with an impressive burst of fruit and vanillin oak. (Marc de Grazia; importers include Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY; Vin Divino, Chicago, IL; and Estate Wines Ltd., San Rafael, CA)

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